Fine Art and some aspects relative to the applications of plastic arts in psychotherapy
The Paired off Visual Signal Liviu Iliescu
About modern plastic arts:
Fernand Leger, 1881 - 1955 (painter and art critic)
A selection of papers, entitled Functii ale picturii [Functions of Painting], was published in 1976 by the "Meridiane" Publishing House of Bucharest.
In the preface, Roger Garaudy synthethises:
"Fernand Leger`s itinerary is an example for the search for possible ways of going beyond abstraction; not to come back here but to step over there."
On page 19 Leger presents the stages of evolution in painting:
- the subject is abandoned for the object;
- the object is abandoned for the abstraction.
He also writes:
"Many are patiently waiting for this so-called "moment" in the history of art to come to an end; they look forward for something else and think that modern painting goes through a stage that is perhaps necessary but that it will return to what people have agreed to call "proper painting" [peinture "comme il faut"].
I add the hypothesis,
- abstraction for primitive experiences, by applying bioptical modalities.
This may be one of the many possibilities to "step over there", among others that already did it.
Andrei Plesu writes about abstract art, in Calatorie in lumea formelor [Voyage in the world of forms], Meridiane, Bucharest, 1974, p. 51:
"Abstract art, hallucinated by the beauty of absolute craftsmanship, of pure form, runs the risk of sinking into the most philistine decorativism, though it claims to be a Promethean overthrow of common values. It is ideal for creating an atmosphere but unfit to determine a steady preoccupation. It is agreeable (though slightly crafty) to pass through a hall full of non-representational works. It is impossible, however, to fully experience what it provides, to spiritually turn to account the clever play of the surrounding structures. In front of a colour spot and of a fascicle of lines, you can ask yourself only elementary sophistical questions. You may digress, but you cannot discover anything. Moreover, in front of a colour spot and of a fascicle of lines, you can neither suffer - if you have the least sense of humour - nor smile - if you have the least decency. You can only smile off-handedly, with a kind of drowsiness of thought and sight..."
About his paintings:
a) Impressions - namely the impression made by the surrounding nature
b) Improvisations - namely impulses from the unconscious
c) Compositions - the dominant role is played by reason, conscious awareneness, purposefulness, finality, with elaborations in a longer time period.
To be sure, the amount of writings about modern art is overwhelming. I am trying to situate my preoccupations in the context of the great many styles and currents which evolved after the so-called impressionist revolution.
Relative to Vasily Kandinsky`s statements, namely (a), I point to my attempt in the bioptical composition 6.1:
Fig. 6.1 L. Iliescu - Study D - oil on cardboard - 90 X 65 cm
Fig. 6.2 Details from figure 6.1
As concerns (c), I think that it refers to the emitter-artist, since the appeal to reason addressed to the recipient subject diverts us from the artistic emotion.
The efficiency of applying plastic arts to psychotherapy also depends on the extent to which the patient easily seizes peculiar sensations. Elements and forms of plastic art abound in TV settings and commercials, as well as on the street advertisement boardings. The diminishing of the possible applications of plastic arts in psychotherapy might be revealed by the so-called satiating habit. This might be related to what psychology calls need and satiety. Several types of needs are described, such as that for food, defense, knowledge, work, play, entertainment, contemplation of artistic works, a.s.o. Some needs are inborn, others are learned. Needs are cyclic and satiety appears, as proved by phrases such as "I am satiated", "habit reduces my interest in...". The recurrence of a need depends on whether it is inborn or learned. There are no clear-cut delimitations, since learned needs derive from inborn ones to a smaller or greater extent. Recurrence is much more frequent and stable with inborn needs, which are more directly linked to genetic inheritances.
One might highlight a survival vector, having as dimensions: utility, need and satiety. Satiety is a feed-back to need.
It is known that the efficiency of applying plastic arts to psychotherapy depends on the efficiency of sensations triggered by compositions to the untrained patient (with no specialty knowledge). It seems that modern abstract art, which is very remote from the object or the narrative, cannot meet that desideratum by the lines and colour spots that create a different reality.
The study of currents, movements, styles and manifestos of plastic arts - starting with Impressionism - has aroused interest in some questions (unimportant, maybe):
- Why are there so many currents in a relatively brief historic period?
- Why have artists given up generous ideas and valuable contents after only a few years from their appearance?
- Is this only a quest for originality?
- Why do they rather quickly satiate affective experiences and are turned to account as decorative elements?
These questions, worded in a way or another, are asked and analysed by art criticism, psychology, and philosophy. It seems that the satiating habit also occurs here. Many works of abstract art are known to have surprising effects and to be famous for their originality. Nevertheless, no matter what current they belong to, there appears a common denominator of satiation. This is accounted for especially by the limited range of technical means and modalities. Lines and colour spots, conventional perspectives, effects of simultaneous contrast, compositions in space (3-D, sculptures), with round, pointed or polished elements, all lead to satiating effects, regardless of the combinations and originality of compositions. This condition may be compared to that encountered in the musical field, where the need for new instruments was felt. They had new timbre potentialities, which intensified affective communications, allowed new interpretations and gave birth to new compositional modalities.
By studying the route from satiation in plastic arts to needs, some statements may be voiced, to prepare possible postulates for the need-satiation ratio. For instance:
- Need occurs cyclically in succession with satiation
- Primitive needs are more frequent than learned ones
- Learned needs are less frequent as they are more remote from primitive needs. Some of them become aperiodical.
Aperiodicity derives from decreased interest and from echoes from the social-cultural context. For instance, the need to see a circus show has gradually passed from the grown - ups to the children. Some needs seem to be more remote from the primitive ones, as is the case of practising sports or attending sports contests. That case, with relatively high frequency may be related to the satisfaction of reaching a target or a purpose, to tracking, attacking and catching a prey or to the struggle for survival, with opposing vectors, namely to nonconditioned reflexes.
To be sure, human experiences are much more complex than the much too brief descriptions presented above. I try to draw attention to the possibilities provided by bioptical type signals in the artistic expressions of plastic arts, to be turned to account in psychotherapy. Sequential visual sensations from the left eye and right eye appear as an untrained genetic datum. It is possible that even in grown - ups the psychic tendencies prevailing in the being may be speculated for acquiring skills related more directly to inborn structures. This supposes that somewhat primitive skills should be acquired, with the limitation of intermediary ones. The advantage is that the patient may belong to the standard type (with no specialty knowledge).
Metavirtual image. It is the perceptive resultant of differentiated stimuli (of a bioptical type) for the two eyes, introduced in composition of plastic art. This is the psychophysical response to observing bioptical compositions, when retinal disparities (differences between the images formed on the retina of the left eye and those formed on the retina of the right eye) differ from those obtained during binocular observation in the surrounding world.
I would like to point to the metaphorical way in which Andrei Plesu presents the virtual properties of a mirror in his book Despre ingeri [About angels], Humanitas, Bucharest, 2003, p. 277:
"The most appropriate analogy for mundus imaginalis is the universe of the mirror. The same as the forms in a mirror, the imaginal forms are an unwonted mixture of the obvious and the ineffable. The mirror receives and reflects without incorporating. What we see in its space does not belong to its substance, but we could not see it without the translucence of that substance. The image in the mirror is in a different space than ours, but it does not start moving otherwise than as a prolongation of our motion. It comes close to us when we come close to it and it ceases to exist when we no longer look at it. Everything is suspended in the unattained approach of pure visuality. According to Ibn Arabic, he who looks at himself in a mirror knows that what he sees is not exactly his image, but he cannot deny that it is still his image. He also knows that the image is not in the mirror, nor is it between himself and the mirror...". In figure 6.3 I try to represent the position of the metavirtual image as to real and virtual images, as they are defined in physics. Thus, the image seen in the mirror is defined as being a virtual perception. In the case of the bioptical perception, one eye perceives real images in one of the composition fields and the other eye perceives virtual images through the pair of mirrors, corresponding bioptically to another composition field. The resultant is a global perception, which is not obtained with the normal vision in the outer world.
1 - real; 2 - virtual; 3 - metavirtual. Beside the field of the metavirtual, I represent the hazy fields of the paranormal: 4 - clear-sightedness; 5 - telekinesis; 6 - telepathy.
As is known, man's psychic life has three fields: activity, intelligence and affectivity. The last one comprises feelings, emotions, passions. They all coexist inseparably. Yet we may take into account the fact that we become aware of some being dominant or having a higher share. I may state that, in the case of the bioptical art, the share of affectivity increases in comparison with the case of the known abstract art. This statement should be pointed out to specialists in psychology.
The shares in psychic life related to plastic arts may be presented as in the graphs of figures 6.4 and 6.5 (approximations for enlightening ideas).
Figure 6.4. Graph of the Bioptical Art.
Figure 6.5. Graph of known abstract art.
1 - activity; 2 - intelligence; 3 - affectivity.